Bhisho finds all its PPE stocks in Dimbaza

Premier Oscar Mabuyane and MEC for Health Sindiswa Gomba at the factory in Dimbaza industrial area where Covid-19 protective gear is manufactured.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane and MEC for Health Sindiswa Gomba at the factory in Dimbaza industrial area where Covid-19 protective gear is manufactured.

After years of complaining that manufacturers in the province are not receiving sufficient government support, two Eastern Cape factories will get all the support they need from Bhisho as they make protective personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The two Dimbaza factories, Mathomo Manufacturing and AET Africa, got the thumbs up from premier Oscar Mabuyane, health MEC Sindiswa Gomba and Buffalo City Metro mayor Xola Pakati when they visited them on Tuesday.

The visit comes after the alarm was raised that not a single factory from the Eastern Cape had been contracted by the national government to supply the state with PPEs like face masks.

Gomba admitted they did not know the two factories existed.

However, Mathomo Manufacturing director Mphumzi Kose said the company, which had been producing and exporting surgical wear to the US, could make up to 50,000 reusable face masks a day.

Kose told Mabuyane and Pakati local manufacturing companies were not getting “enough orders and attention” from Bhisho.

“We brought the mayor and the premier here because locally we have the capacity as the province to assist with this pandemic.

“In the past four years we had about 1,000 employees and last year we dropped to 400 because of the lack of orders.

“We have skilled people who know how to work and operate but they do not have work, hence we are asking the government to assist because they do not know about us,” he said.

The government has for years been talking about reviving factories in Dimbaza, Butterworth, Komani and Mthatha, but the project barely got off the ground.

This has earned it criticism for not walking the talk.

Mathomo Manufacturing will also produce protective suits for frontline workers, Kose said, adding that everyone had to play their part to flatten the curve.

“This has to be a collective fight, it is not just about us here, all businesses need to be together to fight this crisis and also assist in creating employment for people.”

AET Africa, a company producing filter bags for Eskom, will use its resources to make face visors for frontline workers.

AET director Tamsanqa Gxowa said because visors cover a much bigger area of the face including eyes, they give workers much more protection than a mask.

“In the midst of this pandemic we saw an opportunity and we repurposed a section of our plant and innovated simple solutions out of implements that we had in store, and we are now heeding the call and manufacturing visors.”

Gomba said: “I am disappointed that we could be in the Eastern Cape and not know that we had a factory that could help us all along.”

Gomba promised that Bhisho would support the factories.

“The announcement by the national minister that we must now encourage communities to wear cloth masks makes this factory a better place to assist and to also create opportunities of employment for other people.”

Mabuyane agreed.

“We want to create jobs for the people of Dimbaza. All that the departments need are here and 90% of the people employed here are women. People of Dimbaza need not go to Joburg and look for jobs.”

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